Phylum Porifera: Subtidal Sponges

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Sponges, the simplest of all multicellular animals. Bodies are riddled with canals and chambers through which they pump water for filter feeding.  Skeleton composed of organic protein fibers and inorganic spicules made of calcium carbonate or silicon dioxide (glass). Many sponges are difficult to identify in the field and require microscopic examination of their spicules in the laboratory.  5500 living species.

Class Calcarea
  Order Leucosolenida
Leucandra Leucilla
Leucosolenia
Leucandra heathi Leucilla
nuttingi
Leucosolenia eleanor
Class Demospongiae
 Order Spirophorida Order Astrophorida Order Halichondrida
Craniellla
Stelletta
Halichondria panicea
Craniella
arb
Stelletta
clarella

Halichondria panicea
 Order Hadromerida Order Haplosclerida
Cliona
Polymastia
Tethya
Haliclona enamela Neopetrosia problematica Amphimedon trindanea
Cliona californiana Polymastia pachymastia Tethya californiana Haliclona enamela Neopetrosia problematica Amphimedon trindanea
  Order Poecilosclerida
Acarnus
Acanthancora
Antho karykina
Antho lambei
Antho lithophoenix
Clathria pseudonapya Clathria spp.

Acarnus erithacus Acanthancora cyanocrypta Antho
karykina
Antho
lambei

Antho lithophoenix
Clathria pseudonapya Clathria
spp.


Mycale Mycale adhaerens
Mycale
psila
Mycale adhaerens
















Leucosolenia eleanor Leucosolenia eleanor  Urban, 1905
Phylum Porifera, Class Calcarea, Order Leucosolenida, Family Leucosoleniidae

Mats or tufts to 3 cm thick & 10 cm across of minute anastomosing tubules (<2 mm diameter); white; only local sponge with ascon grade of organization. 

Moderately common; seasonal in Monterey (uncommon in winter); on rocks around the bases of red algae.

Geogr. Range: Aleutian Islands to southern California
Synonyms:
Similar species: 

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Leucilla nuttingi Leucilla nuttingi  (Urban, 1902)
Phylum Porifera, Class Calcarea, Order Leucosolenida, Family Amphoriscidae

Small clusters of small vase-shaped tubes 1-2 cm tall; white; despite small size, possesses leucon grade of organization.

Common but inconspicuous due to small size; on rocks nestled with algae & sessile invertebrates.

Geogr. Range: British Columbia to Baja
Synonyms: Rhabdodermella nuttingi
Similar species: Leucandra heathi is larger, rounder, yellow-brown instead of white with fringe of large spicules surrounding oscula.

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Leucandra heathi Leucandra heathi  (Urban, 1905)
Phylum Porifera, Class Calcarea, Order Leucosolenida, Family Grantiidae

Globular to pear-shaped, 4-6 cm in diameter; with conspicuous oscula surrounded by erect fringe of large spicules, white to cream, often covered with detritus; in some locations shape may be much more irregular than in photograph. 

Common, on rocky substrate with moderate water motion.

Geogr. Range: Aleutian Islands to southern California
Synonyms:
Similar species: Tethya californiana is globular, but orange with a textured surface.  Craniella arb is globular but gray with distinctive rows of large spicules across its surface and lacking obvious oscula.  Leucilla nuttingi is more tubular, much smaller, & whiter.

Image: Balanophyllia (lower left)

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Acanthancora cyanocrypta
Acanthancora cyanocrypta  (de Laubenfels, 1932)
Phylum Porifera, Class Demospongiae, Order Poecilosclerida, Family Hymedesmiidae

Thin encrusting sheet, 1-2 mm thick; distinctive cobalt blue comes from symbiotic cyanobacteria.

Moderately common, conspicuous; evident on vertical surfaces, crevices, overhangs.

Geogr. Range: Monterey Bay to San Diego; also reported from  British Columbia
Synonyms: Hymenamphiastra cyanocrypta
Similar species: no other blue encrusting species occurs in Monterey Bay kelp forests.

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Acarnus erithacus Acarnus erithacus  de Laubenfels, 1927
Phylum Porifera, Class Demospongiae, Order Poecilosclerida, Family Acarnidae

Encrusting, 3-5 cm thick; bright red or red-orange; round oscula (4 mm diameter) on raised volcano-shaped projections across surface. 

Abundant, tends to occur on low-lying horizontal surfaces.

Geogr. Range: SE Alaska to Baja
Synonyms:
Similar species: there are many red encrusting sponges in central California kelp forests (e.g. Antho lithophoenix, several spp. of Clathria ).  Examination of spicules under a compound microscope is required for positive identification.

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Antho lithophoenix Antho lithophoenix  (de Laubenfels, 1927)
Phylum Porifera, Class Demospongiae, Order  Poecilosclerida, Family Microcionidae

Encrusting, <3 cm thick; orange-red, scarlet, brick red; surface with subtle pebbled appearance (tubercles 1-2 mm), sparse oscula flush with surface (0.5 mm diam) and with irregular margins.  Examination of spicules under a compound microscope is required for positive identification.

Moderately common, on rock faces interspersed with other sessile invertebrates and algae.

Geogr. Range: central to southern California
Synonyms: Isociona lithophoenix
Similar species: Acarnus erithacus is redder with raised  oscula. Antho lambei is much thinner with faint radiating lines around small oscula. Orange or red encrusting sponges in Monterey require microscopic examination of spicules to identify.
Image: Astrangia (on either side)

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Antho karykina Antho karykina  (de Laubenfels, 1927)
Phylum Porifera, Class Demospongiae, Order Poecilosclerida, Family Microcionidae

Encrusting to 4 cm thick; red with white starburst tracts on surface; firm stiff texture; oscula 1-2 mm diameter sometimes with raised margins.

Infrequent, but can be common in some locations; on rocks with mixed cover of sessile invertebrates & algae.

Geogr. Range: British Columbia to southern California
Synonyms: Plocamia karykina
Similar species: other common red encrusting sponges lack white starbursts on surface; Antho lambei has radiating grooves around oscula but they are not white.

Image: red alga is probably Rhodymenia pacifica overgrown with Diplosoma.

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Antho lambei Antho lambei  (Burton, 1935)
Phylum Porifera, Class Demospongiae, Order Poecilosclerida, Family Microcionidae

Thin crust 1 mm thick, orange to pinkish-orange; shallow radiating grooves around small oscula.  Not easily distinguished from other thin encrusting orange or red sponges in the field.

Moderately common, but inconspicuous; on rock faces often partially obscured by overlying algae.

Geogr. Range: British Columbia to central California
Synonyms: Heteroclathria lambei
Similar species: Antho karykina is redder, thicker & more robust; its white starburst patterning is lacking in A. lambei. Antho lithophoenix is thicker with more obvious oscula.  All red or orange encrusting sponges require microscopic examination to confirm identity.

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Clathria pseudonapya Clathria pseudonapya  (de Laubenfels, 1930)
Phylum Porifera, Class Demospongiae, Order Poecilosclerida, Family Microcionidae

Encrusting, <1 cm thick; pale lime green to yellow; smooth, fragile texture, lacking obvious oscula.

Abundant but inconspicuous; on rock, especially vertical surfaces and crevices, growing around and over other low-lying invertebrates and algae.

Geogr. Range: central California
Synonyms: Clathriopsamma pseudonapya
Similar species:  Mycale psila is not as green and is thicker with evident oscula.

Image: red alga is probably Rhodymenia californica

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Clathria spp. Clathria spp.  
Phylum Porifera, Class Demospongiae, Order Poecilosclerida, Family Microcionidae

One of several species of encrusting red or orange-red sponges, to 2 cm thick; consistency is firm; surface texture smooth to finely papillate, oscula small (1-2 mm), round or slightly irregular & flush with surface.  The genera Microciona, Ophlitaspongia, Axocieleta and others have been consolidated into Clathria.

Common, but cannot be distinguished easily in the field.

Geogr. Range: 
Synonyms: Microciona spp., Ophlitaspongia , Axocieleta
Similar species:  numerous encrusting red sponges occur locally; all require microscopic examination of their spicules to confirm identity.

Image: red alga is Rhodymenia pacifica; Corynactis californica (surrounding); Crisia sp. (lower left); Calliostoma ligatum (browsing on sponge)  

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Mycale psila Mycale psila  de Laubenfels, 1930
Phylum Porifera, Class Demospongiae, Order Poecilosclerida, Family Mycalidae

Encrusting when small, amorphous to massive when larger, 8-10 cm thick; drab yellow-brown, beige or golden; oscula sparse (1-2.5 mm diameter); surface smooth but appears minutely reticulate.  

Moderately common; on rocks; large specimens particularly evident on vertical faces.

Geogr. Range: British Columbia to southern California
Synonyms: Paresperella psila
Similar species: Clathria pseudonapya is thinner, greener and lacks obvious oscula.  Neopetrosia problematica has more numerous oscula on raised, densely-packed lobes and is much firmer.  Difficult to distinguish from other yellow-beige sponges in the field.

Image: Urticina lofotensis (upper rt.)

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Mycale adhaerens Mycale adhaerens  (Lambe, 1894 )
Phylum Porifera, Class Demospongiae, Order Poecilosclerida, Family Mycalidae

Encrusting, either thin layer on shells of scallop Chlamys spp. (photo) or amorphous massive free-living; violet to light brown, light yellow or gray; with round raised oscula (to 4 mm diameter); texture soft and felty.

Moderately common, where Chlamys occurs; on rocky substrate where water motion is moderate.

Geogr. Range: northern  to southern California
Synonyms:  
Similar species: Myxilla incrustans also grows on scallop shells, but is gold to light brown tinged with yellow or rose; oscula not raised.

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Polymastia pachymastia Polymastia pachymastia  de Laubenfels, 1932
Phylum Porifera, Class Demospongiae, Order Hadromerida, Family Polymastiidae

Encrusting >2 cm thick, with numerous conspicuous raised oscula (1-2 cm tall) projecting from surface; pale to dark yellow; basal crust often obscured by detritus trapped by spicules around bases of projections.

Moderately common, especially in deeper sites with moderate water motion (e.g. Deep Reef).

Geogr. Range: Aleutian Islands to central California
Synonyms:
Similar species: other yellow encrusting sponges lack such distinctive tall oscula growing from an encrusting base.

Image: Balanophyllia (bright orange cup corals), Paracyathus (oval brown cup corals, lower rt.)

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Cliona californiana Cliona californiana  (de Laubenfels, 1932)
Phylum Porifera, Class Demospongiae, Order Hadromerida, Family Clionaidae

Yellow boring sponge; usually only oscula are visible flush with surface of shells in which it lives.  May also grow as a massive crust >6 cm thick.

Abundant but inconspicuous; bores chemically into calcium carbonate (barnacle & gastropod shells, etc); a significant source of shell bioerosion.

Geogr. Range: SE Alaska to Baja
Synonyms: Cliona celata
Similar species: 

Image: Corynactis (surrounding); Crisia (top, left of center); shell is barnacle Balanus nubilus

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Tethya californiana Tethya californiana  (de Laubenfels, 1935)
Phylum Porifera, Class Demospongiae, Order Hadromerida, Family Tethyidae

Globular, 6-8 cm in diameter; orange to dark yellow with textured surface; oscula flush with surface and not conspicuous; spongy texture.

Abundant on rock surfaces throughout kelp forest.

Geogr. Range: British Columbia to Baja
Synonyms: Tethya aurantia
Similar species: Craniella arb and Leucandra heathi are also globular, but neither is orange nor do either possess an obviously textured surface.

Image: Acanthancora (surrounding blue), Didemnum (upper left), Rhodymenia pacifica (red alga throughout)

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Stelletta clarella Stelletta clarella  de Laubenfels, 1930
Phylum Porifera, Class Demospongiae, Order Astrophorida, Family Ancorinidae

Large massive sponge to 20 cm tall, white to gray but often appears brown due to detritus caught on surface spicules; oscula or other surface features not evident.

Common, especially in areas with high water motion (e.g. Carmel Bay); on rocks in deeper water.

Geogr. Range: Alaska to Baja
Synonyms:
Similar species: Halichondria panicea can also grow massively in wave-exposed sites but it is yellow to mottled greenish yellow with distinct oscula often in rows on low raised ridges.

Image: Corynactis californica (left & top), Eudistylia polymorpha (top edge of sponge), Celleporella sp. (edge of shadows)

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Craniella arb Craniella arb  (de Laubenfels, 1930)
Phylum Porifera, Class Demospongiae, Order Spirophorida, Family Tetillidae

Globular 8 cm diameter, gray; with distinctive rows of large spicules across surface; oscula inconspicuous (3 mm in diameter).

Common on rocks in kelp forest depths, especially areas with more water motion.

Geogr. Range: central California to Baja
Synonyms: Tetilla arb
Similar species: no other globular sponge in the Monterey region is gray with such distinctive ridges of spicules across surface.

Image: compound tunicate (cntr. bottom), sponge (cntr. top), Dodecaceria (dark spots in pink encrusting coralline, rt.)

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Haliclona enamela Haliclona enamela  de Laubenfels, 1930
Phylum Porifera, Class Demospongiae, Order Haplosclerida, Family Chalinidae

Thin crust only 1-2 mm thick, drab off-white; oscula 1-2 mm diameter with raised collars, spaced at ~1 cm intervals; 

Common but inconspicuous, on rocks with other sessile invertebrates and algae.

Geogr. Range: central & southern California
Synonyms:
Similar species: species in the genus Haliclona are difficult to identify even at the microscopic level. Neopetrosia problematica is much thicker & firmer with larger oscula atop closely packed lobes.

Image: Crisia (lower rt.), Corynactis (middle rt., top left), red algae is mostly Rhodymenia pacifica

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Neopetrosia problematica Neopetrosia problematica  (de Laubenfels, 1930)
Phylum Porifera, Class Demospongiae, Order Haplosclerida, Family Petrosiidae

Massive base to 1 cm thick with round oscula atop closely-packed lobes; drab off-white; consistency stiff & only slightly compressible.

Common, on rock faces.

Geogr. Range: central California
Synonyms: Prianos problematicus
Similar species: Haliclona enamela is thinner, more delicate with much smaller oscula and is not lobed.

Image: Celleporina robertsoniae (cntr. top), Serpula (middle rt.)


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Amphimedon trindanea Amphimedon trindanea  (Ristau, 1978)
Phylum Porifera, Class Demospongiae, Order Haplosclerida, Family Niphatidae

Encrusting base, often thickened into erect lobes. Oscula round & flush with surface, 1.5-5 mm diameter; surface with scattered low warts and scattered long spicules; dark brown to cinnamon (interior lighter brown); consistency very firm & hard, only slightly compressible.

Moderately common on rocks, especially in more wave-exposed locations.

Geogr. Range: central California
Synonyms: Xestospongia trindanea
Similar species: 

Image:  Corynactis californica (surrrounding, Celleporina robertsoniae (middle left); Callophyllis spp. (top center), red alga on left & rt. is tattered Rhodymenia pacifica


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Halichondria panicea Halichondria panicea  (Pallas, 1766)
Phylum Porifera, Class Demospongiae, Order Halichondrida, Family Halichondriidae

Encrusting to massive, >10 cm thick with rows of oscula on low ridges; yellow to mottled greenish-yellow; morphology varies with habitat; with distinctive odor.

Can be common, especially at open coast sites; subtidally, associated with higher water motion.

Geogr. Range: Alaska to Baja
Synonyms:
Similar species: difficult to distinguish from other species of Halichondria; may be part of a complex of closely related species. Stelletta clarella is also massive & occurs in exposed areas, but it lacks obvious oscula and appears fuzzy brown (white under detritus cover).

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Page created by J.M. Watanabe with contributions from Tessa Pierce
All images copyright James Watanabe unless otherwise indicated
Contact:  watanabe_at_stanford_dot_edu                                                                                                                                   Last  update: 1 July 2010